Region Itinerary: Wales
Wales is home to HRH Prince William of Wales. Royal connections abound, and everyone can be spoiled by staying in hotels formerly owned by kings and queens. Two hours from London by train or car is Cardiff, the capital city of 300,000 people. Four universities and a vibrant population fuel a cosmopolitan city atmosphere. Cardiff Castle stands at the heart of downtown and Edwardian shopping arcades (Britain’s first malls) are home to one-of-a-kind shops.
For a more rural experience, Wales has three national parks. (This is even more impressive when one considers that the whole country is the size of Massachusetts.) In Snowdonia National Park, climb Snowdon—the tallest mountain in Wales—or take a historic steam railway to the summit. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has sandy coves, fishing villages, cliff-top walks and millions of seabirds. And visitors can tour the Brecon Beacons National Park on horseback, bicycle or on foot to really be at one with the enchanting landscape.
Wales has 641 castles, three million people, 11 million sheep, three national parks and countless adventures for your clients.
WALES IN ONE DAY
Begin at The National Museum Cardiff, exploring its 15 galleries alone or on a guided tour, then walk around Cathays Park and take a quick tour of City Hall. Nearby are Alexandra Garden (which includes the Welsh National War Memorial), Gorsedd and Friary Gardens. Head up High Street and St. Mary Street to explore the shopping arcades before reaching Cardiff Bay and the Wales Millennium Centre (famous worldwide as the “Hub” on the popular TV series “Torchwood”). Be sure to visit The Senedd, the new debating chamber of the Welsh Assembly. See numerous styles of architecture on display at Cardiff Castle, a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion over a Roman fort. The Castle also has a museum that offers insights into Welsh history.
WALES IN THREE DAYS
Day 1: Start in Conwy, a historic town with a 13th century castle. Visit Plas Mawr, a restored Elizabethan townhouse with ornate plasterwork and fine furnishings. Stop at Penrhyn Castle, a Neo-Norman fantasy castle with an industrial railway museum, collection of old masters pictures and Victorian walled garden.
Day 2: Start at Caernarfon Castle, built by Edward I in 1283 and the venue for the current Prince of Wales’ Investiture. Then head to the restored National Trust property Plas yn Rhiw on the tip of the Llyn Peninsula.
Day 3: Move inland to Wales’ ancient capital Machynlleth where Owain Glyndwr was crowned Prince of Wales in 1404 and briefly held parliament. Explore the town’s shops and restaurants before continuing east to Powis Castle and Garden.
WALES IN FIVE DAYS
Day 1: In North Wales, start in Llangollen, an ancient market town on the banks of the River Dee. Head to Conwy and its castle before continuing to Plas Mawr, a restored Elizabethan townhouse. The Smallest House in Britain is nearby.
Day 2: Head to Caernarfon Castle, and take some time exploring the ancient World Heritage site—arguably the finest in the country. Drive past the foot of Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales. Sir Edmund Hillary and his team trained here before embarking on their journey to the summit of Everest. (The Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel has their signatures on the bar’s ceiling.) Stop in Harlech and visit one of the Iron Ring Castles. Visit Aberystwyth along the coast and explore some of the country’s literary treasures in the National Library of Wales.
Day 3: Head inland to Devil’s Bridge in the foothills of the Plynlimon Mountains before turning south into Pembrokeshire to see St. Davids, the smallest city in Britain. Take some time to explore the town’s art shops, galleries and tea rooms, and take a tour of its Cathedral. Tenby, in between two beaches, has a castle, town walls and a harbor to explore, and reportedly has the best sand in Wales for sandcastles.
Day 4: Take the coastal drive to Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood (his writing shed still overlooks Carmarthen Bay), and drive toward Llanelli and the Millennium Coastal Park on the Burry Estuary, a center for cycling, golfing and watersports. The National Wetlands Centre of Wales, also located in the park, is Wales’ best place to see wildfowl and waders.
Day 5: Explore Swansea and Gower, and tour the ruined Swansea Castle. The Dylan Thomas Centre has an exhibition on the poet’s life and work. Walk over to Swansea’s Maritime Quarter, a waterfront with a 600-berth marina. In Gower, tour open moors, salt marshes and beaches as well as historic churches, castles and prehistoric burial sites, and be sure to visit The Gower Heritage Centre, based around an 800-year-old water-powered mill, with craft workshops and tearooms.